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What is the Best Exotic Coffee?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
What is the Best Exotic Coffee?
post #2 of 26
I think you're hoping someone will bring up kopi luwak. True dat?

FWIW, I had one sip in a Vancouver BC coffee house, prepared in a Bodum French press, and thought it had a dusty, not particularly pleasant character.

More FWIW, I grind with a 15 year old Moka (commerical) grinder, and prepare my own espresso (and my wife's latte) with a 15 year old (semi-commercial) Pasquini Livia 90. While I have some definite favorites among the more expensive and exotics -- our most frequently used coffee is Trader Joe's Safari Blend. $5.99 for 14 oz., and as soon as I hit "Submit Reply," I'll grind and pull my second daily double.

BDL
post #3 of 26
Depends on what you mean by "exotic." If you mean "flavored" coffee, I can't help you-they all taste like coffee-flavored cough syrup to me.

If you mean coffee grown by people paid fairly for their crops in unusual places where the geography contributes to a distinctive flavor profile, maybe I can.
Of course, Jamaican Blue Mountain (easily one of the most expensive) is wonderful-depending on the roaster. Don't purchase this from Starbucks-they over roast their coffee to the point where distinctive flavor notes are burned away. Hawaiian Kona is also good.

One that I particularly like is Ethiopian Yergacheffe. Coffee is indigenous to the mountainous regions of central Africa and Yergacheffe is closest to wild coffee in its original form. It has an wild, herbal quality to its flavor with a fresh, lightly acidic finish. Some call it "thin" but it's really interesting.

I really like organic Sumatran coffee. It's very high in caffeine, yet low in acidity yielding a smooth, deep, rich taste and a good lively kick without the edginess and jangly feeling high acid coffees give you.

There are some really good beans coming from southern Mexico and Costa Rica. I've gotten one affectionately named "cucaracha" (cock roach) which is the largest coffee bean grown. It's usually roasted to what they call "full city roast" which is a nice deep brown without the darker, oily blackness that many (note again Starbucks) associate with well roasted (over roasted in my book) coffee.

Always try to buy coffee designated as "Fair Trade." It will generally be of better quality, grown without damaging the environment and the farmers are paid a fair price for their crop. Starbucks and other large coffee interests tend to exploit their growers and use farming practices that degrade the environment, shade and bird habitat necessary for good quality coffee. Buy organic if you can afford to.

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post #4 of 26
I am no expert but I blend my own coffee beans (all Moka Java but different roast) and always grind before brewing.

The best cup of coffee I have ever tasted is at the Montréalais at the Qu_een Eli_zabeth hotel in downtown Montréal (a decade ago). It was made in a circa 1960 brewing technique by steeping a large cotton bag of a house coffee blend in cold water. The container is a sterling silver steam jacketed kettle. The water is slowly heated with steam then the bag removed before serving straight out of the kettle.

Best coffee type: Blue mountain coffee in Jamaica.

I used to work at a coffee decaffeinating plant as a technical director. Tons of different coffees from around the world came in to be decaffeinated. Green coffee beans are decaffeinated not roasted ones. I used to roast samples and taste them. The best country I found for roasting in small batches was Panama.

In the end it's all a matter of personal taste.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #5 of 26
I had to look up kopi luwak! Heh wonder if it's a DIY. :D Hey I'm a chef, what can I say? I wanna make all my stuff.

Anyway when we were kids Jamaican Blue Mountain was the obvious coffee indulgence. I had no idea it was that expensive though.
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
I just had a cup of Burundi coffee, I'd have to say its among the best, its got a great roasted flavor.

I also like Cuban coffee, that is good as an expresso or expresso con leche. It has been illegal in the US since 1959 so you have to go to Canada to have some.
post #7 of 26
I really should have kept my mouth shut to begin with in order to avoid the complications, but it's a great topic so I said something snappy. Really though the question is as fraught with nuance as "What's the best grape for wine?"

So much depends on how coffee is roasted, ground and brewed. Each style tends to select for different qualities in the coffee itself.

That doesn't change much even as you narrow the focus down. Different high-end espresso machines, using fines ground to the same size in the same grinder, handle particular coffees differently -- and that's the best high end machines, like top level La Marzoccos, Brasilias, Astorias, and Nuova Simonellis. And that's just multi-group, coffee house style espresso machines.

There's even more of a variation with mid levels, and still more variation when you come to different brewing systems such as drip (paper or gold filter, how hot the water, quality of water, etc.) and press.

Then there's the way the coffee is roasted. Not just light or dark, city or full city, but the roast profile it takes to get there, the cooling cycle, the size of the roaster, the efficiency of chaff removal, the type of the roaster (fluid bed, radiant, contact-drum) etc.

Luc, I'm relieved to hear you grind before brewing. Grinding after leaves the coffee lumpy and the grinder wet.

Food, Fair Trade is definitely a very good thing and it's right and ethical to buy from growers and traders who adhere to "Fair Trade" standards at minimum. You're right about Starbuck's, too. Starbuck's tends to roast at too high a temperature scorching the exterior but leaving the center underdone. Oddly this isn't true about Starbuck's in all cities. Apparently their roast masters have enough authority that those who know their craft can pull it off. Starbuck's copied its roast profile from Peet's. Peet himself, and Peet's (the chain) usually get it much better. The coffee has a unique dark caramel character. Very good for a French press.

I like Blue Mountain, but don't think it's the "best." The "best" depends.

FWIW, most people prefer blends rather than singles for espresso. Me too.

It's said that the quality of a cup of espresso comes from the four (Italian) Ms. In order (and Italian) they're, Miscela, mano, macchina dosatore, macchina espresso. In English, that's the blend (including how its roasted), the hand (skill) of the maker, the grinder, and the espresso machine.

At the end of the day, choosing the "best" coffee, exotic or not, comes from an understanding of the interdynamics of your brewing method and tastes.

In truth, my current favorite blend is made from specific estate Brazilian, Costa-Rican, and Sumatran arabica beans, with about 10% Indian robusta for zip and crema; batch roasted to City; then allowed to rest for between three to eight days before grinding; immediately dosed into a portafilter overfilled to 18 gms; up-tamped using the tamper screwed to doser/grinder to about 20 lbs (more of a Euro than an American tamp); and immediately brewed at 202F - 203F. But without at least a decent espresso machine (decent as in $1.000 and up); a more than decent grinder; and a good roast master, none of this makes sense.

Also, what I said about TJ's Safari Blend is true. It's a very good cup of espresso with wonderful chocolate notes, I can pick it up whenever I want it, ready for the grinder right out of the can, with a day or so of age out of the roaster already on it.

Anyway, it's complicated.
BDL
post #8 of 26
Personal opinion, but Blue Mountain is highly over-rated...
We just got back from a trip to Jamaica, and had purchased a package of that coffee (whole bean) there.
Now maybe the transit via airplane (altitude, as opposed to ocean vessel shipping) did something to the beans, but I was not impressed at all...
The flavor was "flat", and essentially non-descript, using 1/2 cup of beans in a ten cup Cuisinart Grind and Brew.
After hewaring all the rave reviews, I was expecting something with a tantalizing taste, but was greeted with nothing that sparked my interest.
For a daily cup of coffee, I usually pick up Starbuck's beans in a 3# bag, and mix it 2:1 with a local hazelnut bean.
With the same 1/2 cup of beans in the Grind & Brew, I get a cup that has some "snap", yet isn't acidic, sour, or harsh.
But then again, I ain't no coffee purist, and just want my warm brown water to taste good, and not upset my stomach...
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I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
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post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Looks like it might be in the US sooner than later:
Cuba opens tourist hotels to citizens - CNN.com

Seems Raul is building hotels for American tourists.
post #10 of 26
I can't call myself an expert by any means, but I can sure tell the difference the roasting makes. When I lived in Corvallis (OR) I'd buy from Michael Sivetz, the inventor of the hot air roasting system. His tasted better than anybody else's for any particular variety I tried. His shop is really small, and it was a while before I realized his stature in the coffee world. Walking into his shop was walking into coffee aroma heaven. It's still there, as far as I know.

I suppose it was probably more than just the roasting, but the source made all the difference to me.
post #11 of 26
Most people have to weigh quality against cost, and for my money, Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend is excellent. Reasonably priced with great flavor.
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post #12 of 26
Sivetz Coffee sells coffee beans at prices comparable to other places. He recommends the French press but sells other kinds of coffee machines too.

It's a shop I will take advantage of as long as I can :D
post #13 of 26

i probably only drink coffee about 3-4 times a week

but one of my favourites is Lavassa from Italy , i find it has a great depth and richness of flavour
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

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www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #14 of 26
I'm with Tessa. Lavassa is gorgeous. When i cant be bothered brewing though i use Percol instant esspresso. 1 tspn (heaped) to a mug omg what a buzz.:crazy:
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #15 of 26
Lavazza or LavAzza -- not Lavassa. Illy is also good if you like that sort of thing. Portioli and Pera are two better Italian brands. Worth finding and trying. One of the differences between European and American blends is that Europeans use a small proportion of robusta type beans. They also roast lighter than U.S. style "espresso" roasts.

French press is one of the best methods, short of a very good espresso machine for making a strong cup. And they're a LOT less expensive. Bodum makes most of the best "press pots." Press pots love darker roasts -- Vienna, French, Peets, that sort of thing. The brewing method highlights the "caramelization" of the darker roasts. The chemcial reaction which darkens and "caramelizes" coffee beans is not the Maillard reaction. Anyone care to name it?

Sorry Luc, you're not allowed to play.

Espresso machines, on the other hand, prefer medium roasts. At least good machines. Usually between City and Full City +, never much past the second crack -- depending on the machine, the specific bean, and the blend, of course. It's odd that Americans associate dark roasts with espresso. But no.

The vacuum pot method is good for a mellow cup of coffee. The Belgian systems are wonderful to behold and make great coffee too. The Japanese pots, a little less showy than the Belgian, are better than Bodum's. Sweet Maria's not only sells a variety of vacuum pots, they have a good article on their site.

The best domestic size filter coffee machines are made in the Netherlands.

Don't ignore the timing and importance of the grinder. Grinding as immediately as possible before brewing is a critical element to any method. Ground beans start staling within minutes after grinding.

The quality of the grind in terms of cleanliness of the grind path itself, consistency of fines size, and lack of heat during the grind is important. The more revealing your brew method, the more apparent are any flaws in your grinding technique.

Burr grinders are hugely superior compared to other methods, but burr grinding is by itself no guarantee of a quality grind. Propeller grinders are cheap, and for most brewing methods adequate if the alternative is pre-ground coffee. The excess heat, the concussion, the inconsistently sized fines, from a propeller grinder will all reveal themselves with a decent espresso machine.

When buying an "inexpensive" espresso machine (inexpensive being between $500 and $1000 :eek::rolleyes:) figure on spending a third of the purchase price on a grinder. The current "hot" type of burr grinder uses conical or combination flat/conical burrs.

BDL
post #16 of 26
On Weekends I make café au lait for my wife and I.
I can't afford a good espresso machine but I can make a decent cup using a Moka pot (or stovetop espresso) and espresso coffee.

I am not playing the game BDL just highlighting that the Maillard reaction is not the major reaction in coffee beans because that reaction requires protein (amino acids) and sugar plus heat. Coffee beans don't have a lot of protein.

I will say that the reaction in question is the same as in making charcoal.

Luc H.
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post #17 of 26
The main reaction in roasting is carmelization, isn't it?
post #18 of 26

i have a cold and the brains not working so well

so i suck at spelling sometimes so just take me out and shoot me ..... we all have off days, i think i need one of these :beer::beer:no need to make such a big deal out of it, or do you never make mistakes
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #19 of 26
Don't take it personally. I thought the proper spelling might help someone who wanted to follow your advice.

Yes, I make mistakes. In fact, I'm male, and therefore never right.

BDL
post #20 of 26
Since BDL did not offer to answer you yet....
Let me sneak in the answer: pyrolysis
Pyrolysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pyrolysis is <combustion> or <burning> without oxygen (without flame). Charcoal is made by heating wood without making is burn (without oxygen).
Like charcoal, roasted coffee is very porous which makes it a good air deodorizer (air filter). I think it is the reason at one time drugs were smuggled in roasted coffee bags since sniffing dogs could not <smell> the volatile compounds of the drugs (just a theory).

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #21 of 26
Actually, I was going to let the contest go a little farther. What I had in mind was the Strecker degradation. As I understand it, in its third stage the Strecker results in furnans, furanones and pyrones, which in turn undergo plain old caramelisation.

BDL
post #22 of 26
Strecker degradation is but one reaction of many reaction included in pyrolysis.

This is a good reference:
Illy listed the following chemical processses that affect the development of volatile compounds in coffee (112):
1) Maillard or non-enzymatic browning reaction between nitrogen containing substances, amino acids, proteins, as well as trigonelline, serotonine, and carbohydrates, hydroxy-acids and phenols on the other.
2) Strecker degradation.
3) Degradation of individual amino acids, particularly, sulfur amino acids, hydroxy amino acids, and proline.
4) Degradation of trigonelline.
5) Degradation of sugar.
6) Degradation of phenolic acids, particularly the quinic acid moiety.
7) Minor lipid degradation.
8) Interaction between intermediate decomposition products.

Link:Coffee Chemistry and Coffee Aroma

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #23 of 26

No science to offer, just a coffee anecdote

Right after WW II, my family lived in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa. My father was chief of a state Department economic development mission. I took off a year from high school and spent it there with them.

There was a small supply of locally-grown coffee (probably wild) and my folks developed a great fondness for it. When they returned in about 1951, they rounded up all the local beans they could find and brought back a burlap-lined crate of beans. It was three or four bushels - a LOT of beans. They stored it in the basement. I don't remember whether it was roasted or not - my father would probably have known how to do that at home.

Anyway, they happily drank Liberian coffee for several months...until they discovered they had left the cover off and the cat had been been using the coffee as a litter box :eek: :(

There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth at the MLM household then.

Twenty years or so ago, rebels took over Liberia, obliterated the ruling oligarchy, and plunged the country into anarchy. I have no idea if there is any Liberian coffee available anywhere. Anybody heard of it?

Mike
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post #24 of 26
Great story MikeLM!
(I personally never heard of Liberian coffee).

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #25 of 26

the cat is obviously a coffee afficianado

:crazy::crazy::crazy:
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
post #26 of 26

Dominica

Dominica (not the Dominican republic) is a tiny island between Martinique and Guadelupe -they make nice coffee there (not the best, but I guess 99% of the people you know have no idea where Dominica is....so it is pretty exotic)
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